Why Russian football expects Hiddink to stick around after retirement call

Russia's RT sports anchor Kate Partridge says Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink's retirement announcement barely registered a ripple in Russia. 
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Russia's RT sports anchor Kate Partridge says Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink's retirement announcement barely registered a ripple in Russia.

 

What? Guus Hiddink is retiring? That's news to us here in Russia!

Well, not quite. But I can tell you the Anzhi coach's announcement that he intends to step away from the game at the end of the Russian Premier League season barely raised an eyebrow here.

When Hiddink told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he would be retiring from football at the end of the season, it hit the back pages across the West and beyond.

“It was not my intention to stay very long when I joined this club,” he said. “I’m basically going to stop at the end of the season. At 66 years old I’ve nearly had enough.

"I get up every day with so much energy, but you have to be careful not to get into a routine,” he added. “You have to be careful that people will think, 'here he is again'. So Anzhi is basically the last team which I will coach."

Yet surprisingly, this announcement barely raised an eyebrow in Russia. The Makhachkala side’s official website – both in Russian and English – doesn’t even mention it.

My Russian colleagues’ reaction amounted to a shrug and the response that Hiddink will probably take on a different role when his contract ends next summer, perhaps Director of Football, but he won’t be leaving Anzhi – as the Dutchman himself might have implied.

“I don't know what I'll do. Maybe I'll be an advisor or supervisor to young players or coaches. I want to teach people how to handle certain issues in football or how they can plot their career path. That sounds interesting. I will not disappear into a black hole."

Hiddink is highly regarded in Russian football because he led the national team to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, which was the country’s best performance since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Since taking charge of Anzhi in February 2012, he led the Dagestan side to the Europa League last season and they are currently second in the Russian Premier League – two points adrift of CSKA and in line for a Champions League place – as the season goes into the three-month winter break.

Hiddink’s connections with Chelsea, and owner Roman Abramovich, also strengthen his Russian ties, especially after the Dutchman led the Blues to FA Cup glory over Everton in 2009 when he was the interim manager.

He has always enjoyed a good relationship with the local media. He doesn’t speak Russian, but will conduct post-match interviews with a translator.

So where does this leave Anzhi and their ambitious owner Suleyman Kerimov?

There is no talk about who would replace Hiddink yet. Roberto Carlos is only just making the transition from player to a management role, and has still to complete his coaching badges.

Striker Samuel Eto’o did say in a television interview last week that he would also consider becoming a manager.

"It would be great, one day, to hear my kids say: 'Our Dad was not only a great player, but also a great coach,'” said the former Barcelona and Inter Milan star (and father of four).

“Then I'd go even further and become a club manager. It's interesting to go through every phase. I could even train Anzhi one day. Anything is possible."

However, at still only 31, scoring an average of a goal just over every two games, and earning a reported half-a-million-dollars a week, the chances of the Cameroon talisman giving up playing for coaching in the immediate future is highly unlikely.

Whatever happens at season's end, the feeling amongst the media here is that Russian football won't be saying farewell to Hiddink just yet.

 
West Brom mad, Kate Partridge is the sports anchor at Russia's RT and writes a weekly blog on the Premier League for rt.com. Click here for more. Also follow Kate: @KatePartridgeRT.

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